By Alan Bean
Researchers at the Libertarian Cato Institute made headlines last month by claiming that welfare recipients are a lot better off than minimum wage workers. A lot of people want to work, the study suggested, but when you can make the equivalent of $35,000 in benefits, you’d be crazy to take a job on the lower rungs of the wage ladder.
Ergo, government largess has made poor people dependent on the dole.
It took several weeks for cooler heads to realize that Cato’s “research” started with a conclusion and went looking for facts to back it up. (To see just how flawed the Cato study was read Josh Barro’s post in the Business Insider below.)
By the time Archie-and-the-debunkers fire up, of course, no one is paying attention, so the study’s authors won’t have to face the music and dance. People who work in ‘Think tanks’ are rarely paid to think; they are reimbursed for providing facts to match the prejudices of whoever pays the piper.
Josh Barro has been called a libertarian, a conservative and a liberal, but he’s actually a center-right thinker who doesn’t buy anyone’s orthodoxy. That’s the hopeful thing about blogs; in theory at least they free opinion from the constraints of moneyed interests . . . assuming that anyone is listening.
I have never understood the appeal of libertarian thought.
Sure, applying simple market principles to the war on drugs can be highly instructive. And the libertarian suspicion of our costly imperial-military machinery resonates with me.
But the idea that government intervention inevitably makes things worse is horribly simplistic. (more…)